(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
On Sept. 3, 1939 Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. That same day Churchill was invited to join the government as First Lord of the Admiralty.
Some days later an incident occurred which, if he knew of it, might've amused Churchill even as it reminded him of what he knew so well: the government had bumbled and worse for years.
Journalist and Member of Parliament Harold Nicolson recounted the incident in a letter to his wife, the poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West:
The Opposition are getting somewhat restive, especially about the Ministry of Information. The latter has been staffed by duds at the top and all the good people are in the most subordinate positions. The rage and fury of the newspapermen passes all bounds.No doubt.
John Gunther [an American war-correspondent] for instance, told me that he had asked one of the censors for the text of our leaflet which we dropped over Germany. The request was refused.
He asked why.
The answer was, “We are not allowed to disclose information which might be of value to the enemy.”
When Gunther pointed out that two million of these leaflets had been dropped over Germany, the man blinked and said, “Yes, something must be wrong there.”
Now the weekend’s upon us. I hope there’s nothing wrong with yours.
And as for remembering to turn back the clocks, you’re on your own. I won’t be dropping leaflets.
The excerpt from Nicolson’s letter is found on pg. 164 of his Diaries and Letters: 1930-1964. (Atheneum, 1980)